Tag Archives: parent
I remember when I first realized that my mother was a narcissist. Although it was painful, I was glad finally to understand why she treated me as she did. The raging, the silent treatments, the manipulation & control.. suddenly it all made sense. She blamed me for all of it, but the truth was it wasn’t me. It was her!
It was another few years before I realized my father was a narcissist as well. It took me so long because he was a covert narcissist.
My mother being an overt narcissist made it obvious something wasn’t right. Normal mothers didn’t keep their daughters from getting to know their extended family. They also didn’t scream at their teenage daughters daily, often multiple times in a day. They didn’t accuse their daughters of completely uncharacteristic behaviors, such as having sex with their entire high school football team, especially when there was no evidence to support this wild claim.
My father was nothing like this at all. For most of my life, I was convinced he was my one nice, normal parent. I was wrong.
While my father didn’t scream at me or accuse me of outrageous behaviors, he abused me nonetheless. He didn’t protect me from my mother. In fact, when I told him of some of her abusive behaviors, he would tell me how hard this was on him, & how there was nothing he could do to protect me. In spite of my pain, I often ended up comforting him after my mother abused me.
Compared to my mother’s constant criticisms & rages, I didn’t think this was a problem. He told me he loved me, unlike my mother who stopped saying it when I was in my teens. My father also complemented me, & bragged about me to other people. My mother didn’t do either.
As an adult, married with my own home, I finally noticed some subtle changes in my father’s behavior. He became critical. Nothing obvious like my mother at first, but still critical. He became more critical over the years. He also became more controlling in subtle ways. If I didn’t answer his call immediately, the next time we spoke, he would tell me how he thought I must be mad at him since I didn’t answer the phone. If I said I wasn’t home at the time, he didn’t believe me. Or, he would call folks we both knew, asking them to contact me & have me call him immediately because he was worried about me.
Eventually, I realized my father was a covert narcissist, & that fact truly hurt.
My situation is quite similar to that of many adult children of narcissistic parents. Accepting the overtly narcissistic parent is abusive is difficult, but it can be done. Accepting their covertly narcissistic parent is abusive is a much more difficult task, & can be impossible for some people.
The nature of a covert narcissist’s abuse is what makes the abuse so hard to comprehend. There is no obvious abuse. They don’t hit or scream. Their abuse is so much more subtle. They use guilt, disapproval, silence & portraying themselves as innocent, naive, in need of saving or protection. They also can turn a situation around to where they look like the innocent victim instead of the abuser, rather than the other way around as it should be.
This creates a cognitive dissonance in victims. In other words, the victim often may see the truth, but doesn’t want to accept it because it’s so painful.
There is also the fact that it’s hurtful enough to accept that one parent didn’t love you. Accepting both parents didn’t is even more so. Even when you understand it’s because they’re narcissists, knowing both of your parents didn’t love you can make you feel unlovable.
If this describes your situation, I’m so sorry, Dear Reader. You are in an extremely painful situation. Pray, journal, talk to safe people… do whatever you have to do to help you face this ugly truth & to heal. It will help you in the long run to face this awful situation. You can do this!
I’ve been working on a book for a while now about toxic/narcissistic in-laws. I’m struggling to write it for a few reasons. I’ve been really distracted by things going on in my life since I started this book 2 years ago. I also felt that I needed to put it on the back burner to write other books. The topic is such a hard one for me to write about too, because I honestly have been through hell because of some of my husband’s family, & I’m still healing. And, in spite of taking frequent breaks, I’m pretty burned out on all things narcissism. These issues make this one tough book to write. That being said, I believe the topic is an important one so I will finish it. It just may take some time.
Since my book is delayed, here is a post to help identify whether or not your in-laws are toxic. I will write from the perspective of a daughter in-law with a toxic mother in-law, since that is the bulk of my experience as well as the bulk of the experiences of people I’ve spoken with. The information is good for toxic sisters in-law, fathers in-law, etc. though.
Does your mother in-law ignore you? The purpose of this behavior is to show you that you mean nothing to her.
Does she refuse to accept responsibility for treating you badly? Rather than say something like, “I shouldn’t have said that.. I’m sorry,” does she make excuses for her words or actions or deny them completely? This is a big red flag. Functional people accept responsibility for what they say & do.
Does your mother in-law have a different personality depending on whether or not you are alone with her or others are around? Another big red flag! Any abuser will behave differently to their victim depending on whether or not there are witnesses. They want to hide their abuse from other people.
Does she expect you to be blindly devoted to her family, even to the point of rejecting your own family & friends? Many toxic mothers in-law remind me of the Borg from the tv show “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” They expect their son’s or daughter’s new spouse to become completely enmeshed in their new in-law family.
Like the Borg, toxic mothers in-law expect their new sons or daughters in-law to adapt to their opinions, religion, way of life, etc. Individuality is highly discouraged by toxic mothers in-law. I once told my late mother in-law I hate to cook. I do it, but hate it. For Christmas a few months later, she & her 2 daughters gave me nothing but cookbooks, utensils, food & other cooking paraphernalia.
Toxic in-laws show no respect. Toxic in-laws show no respect for personal space, choices, likes/dislikes, parenting, & even boundaries.
And speaking of a lack of respect, your mother in-law makes it clear to you that she doesn’t like you. Unless you abuse your mother in-law’s adult child or your children, if your mother in-law had any respect whatsoever for her child, she would be civil to you no matter how much she disliked you. The inability to be civil even only for the sake of her adult child proves she is toxic.
Is she manipulative & controlling? Toxic people, in particular narcissists, must be in charge. Chances are, your mother in-law controls her spouse & children. Since you married one of her children, she expects you to be as control-able & easily manipulated as everyone else. When you say no, she is NOT happy.
If your toxic mother in-law is nice to you, it’s short lived & in front of others only. Very few people are cruel 100% of the time. Toxic people bring out their nice side when it can be advantageous to them. Being nice sometimes will make their victim want to see it more, so they work harder to please the toxic person. Also, being nice to a victim in front of others helps the toxic person prove to others that if you complain about the relationship, you are obviously the problem.
Mothers in-law like this care nothing of their adult child beyond what he can do for her. They clearly have no respect for him either, since they treat the person he chose to spend his life with so badly. His marriage is nothing more to this kind of mother than an embarrassment, & she would like it simply to go away. Since she can’t file for divorce on his behalf, she becomes extremely destructive to the adult child’s marriage with her abusive ways.
Your spouse no doubt suffers greatly from his mother’s abusive behavior, yet tolerates it anyway. This is because he is accustomed to how his mother behaves. This is his norm & many adults in this situation have accepted this as their permanent reality. By complaining about his mother’s behavior or even confronting her, this threatens his norm. Facing the truth can be incredibly painful for many in this position, which is why many refuse to face the truth. This feeling is known as cognitive dissonance. Rather than face this miserable feeling, many people in this situation will do their best to shut down their spouse. They don’t want to hear about the bad things their mother is doing, so they will tell their wife they don’t believe her, she is over sensitive, she just doesn’t understand Mom, that’s her problem so she needs to leave him out of it & more. They refuse to confront their mother on behalf of their wife.
Naturally, the wife in this position feels rejected, unloved & hurt. She wants to fight for her marriage, but it seems whatever she does is wrong, & whatever his mother does is right. Her trying to save her marriage only causes more problems. The reason for this is she doesn’t know that when you’re dealing with a narcissist, normal ways to cope don’t work.
For anyone in this position, you need to think of this situation more like a game of strategy than a relationship.
As always pray. Ask God to help you to know what to do & to give you whatever you need to enable you to do it. Pray for your husband to see the truth & for God to enable him to be able to cope with it, too.
Cope with your emotions as best you can by journaling, talking to a safe friend, pray.. whatever works for you. Whatever you do, don’t hold in your emotions!
Don’t focus on your mother in-law’s bad behavior when it can be avoided. Instead, focus on being the loving wife that you are. Don’t neglect to remind your husband how much you love him. If he complains about his mother to you for any reason, don’t join in. Listen quietly to him & give him objective advice if he asks for it. The reason being, the mindset of many people in this situation is they can complain about Mom, but if anyone else does, they jump to her defense. This would only cause more problems in your marriage.
Along those lines, if you discuss his mother’s behavior with him, stay calm. State your issues in a matter of fact way, lacking emotion. If you rant & rave, that too will make him feel he must defend his mother, which only will hurt you & possibly your marriage.
Limit your exposure to your mother in-law as much as possible, but especially alone. No narcissist wants to abuse their victim in front of the person they want to think well of them, so stay glued to your husband’s side as much as possible.
Keep your emotions in check around your mother in-law. Narcissists love to twist a victim’s normal reaction around to prove how mentally unstable or even abusive the victim is to other people. In her presence, stay calm. Vent later when you’re away from her as needed though, so you don’t hold in all the bad emotions.
Having to deal with toxic, narcissistic in-laws is tough. I know, I’ve been there. But, with prayer, love, patience & wisdom, you can survive it with your marriage in tact.
Many survivors of childhood narcissistic abuse grow up showing virtually no anger. Even when they have valid reasons for being angry, they don’t show anger, in particular anger at their abusers.
Rather than get in touch with their anger, they often stuff it deep down inside & make excuses for their abusers. “If only I hadn’t done…” “It’s not his fault, he had a bad childhood.” “She was right, & I’m oversensitive. I always have been.”
Sometimes, abused children grow up depressed. They aren’t necessarily depressed though. They may be incredibly angry about the traumas they endured. Repressed anger can manifest as depression.
Anger really is a scary thing when you’ve never been allowed to express it, & even more when you were shamed for feeling anger by your parent. The only anger that was allowed in the home where I grew up was my mother’s. If I showed even a bit of frustration let alone anger, she shamed me for having “that Bailey temper.” It took me until well into my 30’s before I could express any anger at all, & into my 40’s before I got comfortable with it.
Anger really isn’t a bad thing at all, Dear Reader. I know so many people say it is, Christians in particular, but it truly isn’t. Anger is simply an emotion & emotions are from God. Would He give a bad gift?! Matthew 7:11 “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (NIV)
What is bad about anger is when you do bad things with it. You shouldn’t let your anger motivate you to get revenge, for example. Romans 12:19 “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” (NIV)
What is good about anger is it can let you know when you’re being mistreated. If someone treats you well, you won’t feel anger, but let that person steal from you for example, & you WILL feel anger!
Anger also can motivate you to make positive changes. No one ever started a diet who was happy with the state of their body. They started it because they were fed up with not wearing a smaller size, getting winded walking up the steps or because they were having health problems.
So how can you learn to feel & express your anger in a healthy way?
You need to accept that you have the right to be angry sometimes. Every single living being has the right to feel anger about some things, & that includes you. Hiding it as a child was no doubt a very useful survival skill, but you’re not that child anymore. You are an adult who has every right to feel it & express it in healthy ways. Remind yourself of that & do so often.
You also need to gain a good understanding of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It helps in so many ways, but one way that helps you is because you understand projection. A narcissist who shames you for being angry or having a bad temper is simply projecting their bad temper or anger issues onto you. Their cruel comments are absolutely no reflection on you.
You need to recognize that you have the right to be angry at your abuser(s). During the abuse, you obviously couldn’t show your anger. Now that the abuse is done, get angry! Let out all that old anger you stuffed inside you for so long! It’s hurting you physically & emotionally to hold it in so let it out. It’s long overdue! It’ll help to free you of shame, guilt & feeling worthless to do so.
**I’m not saying that by getting angry at your abusive parents you need to confront them. That is entirely your decision. All I am saying is you need to feel & express that anger.**
Everyone has ways to deal with anger that work for them, & you need to do the same. You can journal, get a punching bag, punch pillows, yell when home alone… there are all kinds of different ways you can cope.
Don’t think that if you decide to forgive your abusive parents, the anger will vanish. I made that mistake early in my healing, & thought there was something really wrong with me for still feeling angry with my parents after deciding to forgive them. I didn’t realize that deciding to forgive them wouldn’t make all the anger I felt magically disappear. I believe forgiving & getting rid of anger are two separate things. At least they have been for me. I make the decision to forgive those who have done me wrong immediately, but even so, it takes time to work through & release the anger.
My mother hated my ex husband from the moment she first saw him. She barely tolerated him after we got married… until he hit me. At that time, my mother saw me injured a couple of days after, with my ex’s hand prints still bruised on my wrists. She told my father she couldn’t imagine what I’d done to him to make him hurt me. Months later, I learned my parents saw my ex around town & were friendly with him. Around 18 years later, my mother called one day & said my father told her my ex hit me. She asked if this was true. I said yes. She told me how if she would’ve known, she would’ve contacted a lawyer & pursued it. I also realized during this conversation that seeing me battered meant nothing to my mother, & she forgot it happened.
Sadly, my story is not unique. Narcissistic parents often side with their child’s abuser. The facts don’t matter. According to narcissistic parents, the abuser is right & their child is wrong. This behavior can be one of the most painful & baffling of the many abusive behaviors of a narcissist.
I have some clues as to why narcissistic parents behave in this manner.
When someone upstages a narcissist in any way, it’s bad in the narcissist’s eyes. People pity another person covered in bruises or wearing a cast, which means there is less attention for the narcissist. To a narcissist, this means that person should be punished, & what better way to punish someone than to side with the person who hurt them?
If their child doesn’t have physical evidence of abuse, their parent doesn’t believe them. Narcissists lie & assume everyone else does. It’s projection. So unless their child has evidence of abuse, their parent won’t even believe they were abused.
Narcissists believe they are the only ones worthy of attention, so when another person, in particular their “lowly” child gets attention, they get angry. With narcissists, any attention is good attention. All they see is someone got attention that they didn’t get, & that makes that person bad.
Narcissists don’t want to accept that abuse is wrong, because then they would be wrong. Rather than face truth, it’s better in a narcissist’s mind to normalize abuse & make the victim bad.
If the abuser was the other parent, making the abuse ok means it was also ok that they didn’t protect their child. Remember, with narcissists, everything is about them. If they can spin your trauma around to how hard it was on them, denying knowing it happened, or denying it happened at all, it makes their lack of protecting their child acceptable.
The abuser is someone a narcissist admires & they’re afraid the victim will make them look bad. Narcissists care what people other than their victim think of them & certain people’s opinions they value above all else. If that person hurts their child, their primary concern is still how that person sees them. As an example, my mother believed my in-laws’ were a big happy family. When I told my parents my mother in-law was abusive, even siting examples, my mother didn’t believe me. Until our relationship ended, my mother asked my husband often how his mother was, sent his parents Christmas cards, then bragged to me about sending them cards.
Jealousy is another reason narcissistic parents side with abusers. In cases where a narcissist’s adult child is being stalked &/or harassed, most narcissists act like the abuser really must love their child rather than realizing the abuser has serious control issues. This makes them jealous.
Narcissistic parents are often lazy. Just because they have a child doesn’t mean they want to parent. They get angry if they have to care for their child, & take the focus off of them for any length of time.
Covert narcissistic parents like to rescue their child. Coverts gain narcissistic supply from appearing good & kind, so if they can wait until their child is terribly abused, then rescue him or her in some way, it’s supply to them.
Whatever the reasoning, remember when your narcissistic parent sides with someone who has hurt or abused you, it is just more evidence that your parent is the one with the problem, NOT you! Normal people don’t side with abusers over victims! xoxo
Many narcissistic mothers have issues with food & weight, & in typical narcissistic parent fashion, they pass those issues on to their daughters.
My mother told me how fat & ugly I was so often in my childhood that I went through anorexia at age 10, & later bulimia in my teens. She continued to insult my weight very harshly until we stopped speaking when I was 45 years old. Many other daughters of narcissistic mothers I have spoken to have similar stories with their mothers. Even if they didn’t develop a full blown eating disorder, their mothers convinced them that they were ugly because they are too fat or too thin.
I think this is often because insecurity the reason many people became narcissists. Insecurity is at the root of their behavior, so everything they do is an attempt to make them feel better about themselves. The more a narcissist can beat someone down, the more this builds up the narcissist. They love having the power to destroy another person’s self esteem. It’s a “high” to them.
Narcissists also like to project their issues & insecurities on others. In other words, they accuse other people of thinking or acting like they do, even when it’s very obvious that the victim is doing nothing of the sort. Projection allows them to be angry about their own issues while at the same time not admitting their flaws, accepting any responsibility for them or making appropriate changes in their thoughts, beliefs & behavior.
Also, narcissistic mothers look at their daughters as competition. If the mother is overweight or underweight, but her daughter has a good figure, it is a guarantee that she will do her level best to make her daughter feel badly about her figure & her appearance in general. The narcissistic mother can’t handle thinking her daughter is better than her in any area, so in her mind, her daughter must be punished for this.
Narcissistic mothers also want to control their daughters, & one way for them to accomplish this task is to obliterate her daughter’s self esteem. A person who thinks poorly of herself is easy to manipulate & control. That person doesn’t believe she is smart enough to know what is right, so she’ll rely on someone else to tell her these things. She also doesn’t believe she deserves to be treated well & will tolerate some pretty terrible abuse.
If this describes your situation with your narcissistic mother, please remember these things! The things she has said to you are a lie! She is only saying those things to hurt you so she can feel better about herself. DO NOT LISTEN TO HER!!!
Never forget to run to God with your problems. Ask Him to tell you the truth. Ask Him if what your mother said is accurate or not, then listen for His response. It may be an audible voice, or it may be a knowing in your heart. Or, you may hear nothing at the time, but at a later time, you hear a song or read a passage in a book or your Bible that somehow speaks to you, & you know beyond a doubt it is God sending you a message.
I know it can be hard to do these things, but you need to! You don’t deserve to feel badly about yourself or have eating disorders, especially because of someone else cruelly putting their own issues on you. You are fearfully & wonderfully made, according to God’s word in Psalms 139:14. You deserve to love your body, not hate it, especially because of someone else has issues.
I’m writing this post for those of you who are currently unwilling or unable to go no contact with a narcissist.
Almost every article out there regarding victims of narcissistic abuse says the same thing – “just go no contact.” The tone in many of these articles & even some fellow survivors can be downright shaming. They make it sound like being unable or unwilling to go no contact means you’re weak, stupid or something is very wrong with you.
No contact is almost always the best way to deal with a narcissist, but that still doesn’t make it an easy solution. It always hurts to end a relationship, even when the person with whom you’re ending it is abusive. The closer the relationship the more it hurts, too. If you’re ending a relationship with your parent, that is going to hurt a great deal more than ending it with someone you have dated only a month. Narcissists usually abuse those closest to them. This is why the most abusive relationships with a narcissist are close relationships, such as parents & spouses.
There is also the fact that narcissists are able to behave & treat people right (they just prefer acting the way they do because it gets them what they want). When they behave, they can be so very good & loving! Seeing that, it’s hard to want to leave them because you can’t help but hoping that good part of them will stick around for good.
Not wanting to end a relationship with a narcissist doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or you’re weak. It means you’re normal!
It often takes a lot of time to work up the inner strength to be able to go no contact. Narcissists beat their victims down so badly, they can utterly destroy their victim’s self esteem. Even when you learn what is happening, it still takes time to repair your self esteem & to build up enough strength to sever ties.
Or, maybe you believe in your heart that the timing isn’t right just yet for no contact. That happened to me with my parents. I wanted to go no contact with them for well over a year before I felt God was saying it was time.
A lot of times, a victim who lives with a narcissist is financially dependent on that narcissist. Narcissists love using money as a means of control, so often they take away any access a victim has to money, even if it’s his or her own paycheck. It takes time to be able to find means of supporting oneself in these situations.
There are also some narcissists who are pretty low on the spectrum. Yes, that person causes problems but they aren’t over the top in their behavior. In cases like this, some people would prefer to learn ways to deal with these people than end those relationships, & it is their right to do that.
None of the above situations make a person weak or flawed.
For those of you who are in situations like these, I want to encourage you today.
It’s very difficult at best being in a relationship with a narcissist, I know. Until the time comes when you are ready & willing to go no contact, there are some things you can do to make your relationship with this person a little easier.
The first thing you should do is ask God to show you creative & effective ways to cope with this person & also to enable you to go no contact if that is your desired result.
Always remember that narcissists are all about gaining narcissistic supply. It’s the motivation behind everything they do. Any attention or reaction you give them, good or bad, provides supply. Learn to be as boring to the narcissist as possible. Show them no anger, sadness or happiness. Be calm & collected in the presence of the narcissist. Offer simple answers without explanations. Provide no personal information. This is known as the Gray Rock method.
Don’t forget to question whatever the narcissist says. They are masters of gaslighting & manipulation, so basically almost everything they say needs to be examined. Ask yourself if what they say is true or not. You also can question the narcissist directly. If you opt to do that, do it calmly in your best gray rock way. “Why do you think that?” “Explain how that makes sense.. I don’t follow you.” Logical & calmly asked questions can throw a narcissist off balance. They show her that you’re onto her.
Never forget to keep & enforce healthy boundaries. You have every right to tell the narcissist no & to expect to be treated with respect. Don’t explain your boundaries either, as the narcissist will tell you why your boundaries are wrong, & may make you doubt yourself. Or, if you feel you absolutely must explain something, remember to stay gray rock & keep all explanations minimal.
Never forget that whatever any narcissist is doing isn’t about you. It’s about them. Everything is always all about them! Yes, that person is hurting & abusing you, but it’s because it makes her feel better. It’s not because you have done something to deserve it. Also, nothing that person says about you is true. Narcissists project their own flaws onto their victims. It doesn’t mean you actually are whatever the narcissist says you are. In fact, if you listen to what the narcissist says about you, you can learn a lot about that person. If she calls you a liar, it’s because she lies often.
If your goal is to go no contact in the future, low contact may be an excellent option for you. It’s as the name describes – you are in low contact with the narcissist. You don’t take phone calls or visit often, but only when you feel able instead. Low contact can be a really good stepping stone to no contact.
While there are no easy, one size fits all solutions for narcissists, these tactics can help you at least. And, don’t forget – there is nothing wrong with you for being unable or unwilling to go no contact. It’s a very big decision, & every person has to do it only when & if they feel equipped to do so.
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Some covert narcissists are what I think of as the consummate victim. They are the ones who are always wronged, always the victim, & never at fault for anything. Some examples of their behavior are as follows.
The narcissist says something cruel. You get angry, & rightfully so. She claims she never meant to hurt your feelings. She was just trying to help & had no idea what she said would upset you. She then stops speaking to you for weeks, even if you apologized.
The narcissist tries to manipulate you into doing something you don’t want to do. Naturally, you refuse to do it. She claims you don’t love her. How could you refuse to do this one little thing for her, especially after all she’s done for you?!
The narcissist is your elderly parent who expects you to come at their beck & call. You tell your parent you only are available one day a week to do what she needs. She tells your family how you refused to help her, & they attack you for being a bad daughter, ungrateful, a spoiled brat & more.
Narcissists who claim life is so unfair to them or that they are mistreated when people confront them on their abusive behavior are also consummate victims. There are also those who blame their victims for their abusive behavior. They are also consummate victims, as are those who complain about their problems, yet refuse to do something to change the situation.
Dealing with these people is incredibly frustrating, I know. My late father & late mother in-law were both covert narcissists & consummate victims. I repeatedly asked my father not to call after 9 at night. When I refused to take his call when he called at 10 one evening, he called my in-laws & a cousin who lives almost 500 miles away. He told both he was so concerned about me for not answering the phone, & asked them to have me call him immediately. Another time, I was angry with my mother in-law because she had snooped through my purse yet again. She asked my husband why I was angry, & he told her. I overheard the conversation. She claimed not to know what she did would be upsetting to me.
Both situations were similar. As a result of my father’s & mother in-law’s actions, my husband & I got into an argument about his mother & my cousin & I argued about my father. Being the typical consummate victims, their obnoxious behavior caused problems for the real victim while making themselves look good.
There are some things that you can do that can help you if you must deal with this behavior in covert narcissists.
Always rely on God to help you in this situation. He will be glad to help you discern the truth & strengthen you to do whatever you need to do!
Remember the type of person that you’re dealing with. No matter what you do, this person will twist the situation around to make you look bad & them look like the innocent victim of your cruelty. Expect nothing else because this person has no desire to behave any other way.
Also remember that there is nothing wrong with you setting boundaries or confronting this person on their abusive behavior. Both of those are good things to do. They are healthy & show you have self respect.
Consummate victims are very skilled at recruiting flying monkeys. When you set those boundaries or confront the narcissist about her behavior, no matter how gently & reasonably you do so, it’s a safe bet someone will tell you how cruel, unreasonable, wrong, etc. you are. When this happens, ignore whatever these flying monkeys have to say. They don’t know the truth, only what the narcissist has told them. Also, it’s best to refuse to discuss the narcissist with them.
Lastly, it’s also important to remember that consummate victims may project their status on their real victims. It can be easy to believe their lies since narcissists are talented actors who give very convincing performances. To avoid believing their lies, remember that you are NOT a consummate victim if you are angry about being abused, setting healthy boundaries or refusing to be manipulated.
If you are faced with a covert narcissist who portrays herself as a consummate victim, you can cope. You have the knowledge & strength to handle this ugly situation.
As children, we’re supposed to figure out what we want to do when we grow up & plan for it accordingly by the time we graduate high school. Many plans change but at least most kids have an idea of what they want to do with their lives.
I didn’t. I never could figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t even know if I wanted to get married or not, but I assumed I wouldn’t because my mother told me no man would ever want me. I’ve kind of fallen into things rather than having a plan to get there my entire life.
I’ve thought this was strange since it seemed to me everyone else I knew growing up had some goals. They knew if they wanted to get married, have kids, travel the world, go to college, & what kind of career they wanted.
Recently I realized something. I believe this is because when you grow up with a narcissistic parent (or two), you learn early on that you’re wrong about anything & everything. What you think, feel, like, don’t like, want, believe, etc. is all wrong. So, if you believe you’re wrong, how can you set any goals? The goals will automatically be stupid, bad, wrong, etc. because you set them. Why bother even trying to set goals that are going to be so bad? It’s a waste of time.
Plus, many of us with narcissistic parents were told by that parent that they knew us better than we knew ourselves. Believing this lie would also inhibit us from making goals because obviously we are too stupid to know what we should do & what we want to do.
Even realizing this, I still have trouble setting goals but am improving a bit at it. I have learned I’m not the stupid, ugly, fat, horrible, useless person my mother told me I was growing up. I have also learned she has absolutely no clue who I am, so saying she knows me better than I know myself was an absolute lie. I know me much better than she ever has & ever will. Learning these things have helped me some in this area as well as healing my virtually destroyed self-esteem. Realizing these truths about yourself can help you too. Talk to supportive, loving & safe people. Write in a journal. Those things will help you to discover the real you, the good person that you are as well as what you want to do with your life. They also will help you to see that maybe what your narcissistic parent said you wanted, liked or didn’t like was absolutely wrong, & enable you to figure out what makes you truly happy.
Dear Reader, if you have this same problem with setting goals, know you aren’t alone. You aren’t crazy or stupid for not being able to do so. It is simply one more side effect of growing up with a narcissistic parent. Focus on healing your wounded self-esteem, & I believe goals will become more natural & easy to set in time. Ask God for help, too- He will not let you down!
One thing that every adult victim of narcissistic parents I have spoken with has struggled with is forgiving their parents.
So many people, particularly Christians, think that these victims need to forgive & forget. They often quote Ephesians 4:26 which says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:” When victims struggle with forgiving & forgetting, they are shamed & even shunned by the very people who should support them, creating even more pain, guilt & shame in the victim.
I want to give you a new perspective on forgiveness that I think can help you today.
If you look at the definition of forgive, nowhere does it say you don’t feel anger. According to Merriam-Webster.com, to forgive means:
1 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : PARDON; forgive one’s enemies
2a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for; forgive an insult
b : to grant relief from payment of; forgive a debt
It’s possible to forgive someone while still feeling anger for them. What I mean is when you forgive someone, you decide that they don’t owe you an apology or repentance. You won’t try to collect that “debt” from them. You have released that person from paying you the debt that they owe you. This is what I try to do any time someone mistreats me- give up expectations of an apology immediately. That way, I have forgiven that person, as God wants me to do. Yet, even forgiving quickly doesn’t mean I may not still feel some anger for that person for a while. See what I mean? You can forgive while still feeling anger.
I also firmly believe that releasing the anger you feel can be a process. If the waitress makes a mistake on your order or a clerk is rude, those minor incidents are easy to forgive. Big issues though, it takes time to work through the anger. Processing anger from years of abuse takes a lot of time & work, especially if you learned early in life to ignore your anger which is the case with most children of narcissistic parents.
There is also the fact many people think to forgive your abusive parents is a one time thing. You just forgive everything in one fell swoop & *poof* you’re not angry & you never will be angry again with them. As anyone who has tried to forgive their narcissistic parents knows, that isn’t how it works. You have to work through many different traumas individually, not lump them all together as one big trauma.
I honestly can say I have forgiven my narcissistic parents. However, there are still some times I feel anger at them.
When a repressed memory comes back to mind, I feel anger at my parents about the incident. When I have flashbacks, nightmares, the anxiety & depression get bad, I also feel anger. It’s their fault I have C-PTSD, after all. Plus, when I told my father about having it, he ignored me then changed the subject. Sometimes I also feel anger when others talk about what a great relationship they have with their parents. I wanted that with mine, but wasn’t able to have it, because their narcissism was more important to them than me.
Do you think this means I haven’t forgiven my parents? If so, I’d have to respectfully disagree. I have released my parents from any responsibility to apologize or make amends with me, which is the definition of forgiving.
Yes, there are times I still feel anger at them, as I admitted, & I think it’s very normal. I also work through the anger & release it quickly. That is the best I can do, & I know God honors that I am trying. That’s all He asks of us, to try our best.
If someone tells you you’re wrong for not forgiving your narcissistic parents, Dear Reader, please remember what I said in this post. If you don’t expect your parents to apologize or repay you for the trauma they inflicted on you, you already have forgiven them. The more you heal, the less anger you’ll feel towards them. It just takes some time.
Most people assume there is only one type of grief, the grief that happens when someone you love dies, but there are other types as well.
People also can grieve when they move, get a divorce or lose a job. There is also something known as anticipatory grief, which happens when you know someone is dying. This is especially common in families where someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s due to how this terrible disease destroys a person’s personality before it destroys their body.
Unconventional grief is different. It is grief that is triggered by unique circumstances. I experienced it when learning about the many new limitations because of how damaged my brain was after surviving Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. It also can happen when someone is diagnosed with mental illness or when a loved one has a substance abuse problem. Unconventional grief also can happen as a result of trauma & abuse.
When you grow up with a narcissistic parent or two, & you finally learn about narcissism, although it is a great thing, it can trigger grief. Suddenly you realize that you aren’t the problem, which is certainly good news of course, but realizing what your parent was is difficult & painful to accept. It hurts that the one person who was supposed to love you unconditionally didn’t, & lacks the ability to do so. You also realize how much your parent took from you, such as your childhood & self-esteem. And, it suddenly hits you that there is no hope for your relationship. Prior to learning about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, most people have some hope that one day their parent will realize what she did, apologize & change for the better. Learning about NPD squelches that hope completely. That is a tough pill to swallow!
Facing these ugly truths absolutely can cause a person to grieve, & it’s extremely painful. It’s also difficult to understand because of the limited view of grief that most people have. How can you grieve when the person in question is still alive?! Well, it’s surprisingly easy to do actually.
When my father died in October, 2017, I didn’t cry. I cry easily especially when losing someone I love, but I didn’t cry. I barely have felt sad at all since he’s been gone. No doubt any of my family that may be reading this thinks it’s because I’m a cold, evil person, but that isn’t the case. It’s because I grieved him enough when he was alive that his death didn’t have a very profound effect on me. And you know something? Many other adult children of narcissistic parents I’ve spoken with have said that they felt the same exact thing when their parent died.
Unconventional grief can be incredibly difficult, but you can get through it.
Pray & pray often. You will need the wisdom, guidance & comfort of God to get through this.
Don’t judge your emotions. Accept them. Examine them without judgement or criticism. Feel them. Pray, talk or write about them to cope with them.
Anger is an especially common part of this sort of grief. If you feel a lot of anger, it’s normal! I know, you probably grew up like most of us with narcissistic parents did, believing you aren’t allowed to be angry. Stop that now! Why are you angry? Face it head on & deal with your feelings. The pain will lose its power over you if you face it.
You also may start to remember only the good times. They are good to remember, but don’t forget the bad as well. Embrace the good & heal from the bad.
Write in a journal. Writing is very cathartic, plus it will help you to have documentation. You may even decide that you enjoy writing, & opt to start a blog or write a book.
Find online support groups & websites. Learning that others are experiencing similar things to you is very helpful.
Don’t expect this grief to end entirely. It will get better, but it may never end entirely. It’s like losing a loved one- you grieve most right after the person died, but even many years later, the pain is still there, just not as intense as it was at first.
If you’re experiencing unconventional grief, Dear Reader, know you aren’t alone. You can survive this! It will take hard work & won’t be easy, but you can do it!
When the adult child of a narcissist decides to go low or no contact with the abusive parents, people are often surprised. Narcissistic parents do their best to create an image of a happy, functional family to outsiders, & many people believe this false image to be real. They don’t realize how much serious thought & prayer went into the adult child’s decision. Those people are shocked by the low or no contact decision. They say things like,
- “You were always such a good child!” (children of narcissistic parents are often incredibly obedient in order to please their parent or avoid abuse)
- “You never said anything was wrong.” (abused children rarely do- abuse is normal, & they don’t often realize it’s wrong. Or, if they do know, to survive, they know they must keep the abuse a secret)
- “Your mother/father never said one bad thing about you!” (abusers don’t show their abusive side to everyone- they hide it from those whose opinions they value. Besides, if the abusive parent appears good to everyone, & the child claims this parent is abusive, people are more likely to believe the parent than the child if the child speaks out)
Other people react with guilt, urging the victim to continue the abusive relationship. Often, these people came from abusive backgrounds themselves, & are in denial about it. You facing the truth makes them feel bad for not doing the same, so often, people like this try to bring you down to their level. They say things like,
- “They did the best they could!” (So? Even on the highly unlikely chance the abuser didn’t realize they were being abusive, that doesn’t make the abuse less damaging)
- “Your parents won’t be around forever!” (True, but neither will anyone. It’s entirely possible their child could die first, so why not tell the abusers this fact? And, the Bible says you reap what you sow in Galatians 6:7-8. People can’t abuse someone & expect that someone to tolerate it indefinitely. Everyone has their limits)
- “Your parents gave you everything!” (providing food, clothing & shelter is the job of parents. They may have done these things, maybe even spoiled their child with “stuff”, but that doesn’t make them parents of the year. It also doesn’t mean their child owes them for doing what a parent should do for their child.)
- Some people refuse to discuss the topic with the victim because they have chosen the side of the parent. They often make their displeasure with the victim obvious in snide comments or disdainful looks rather than using their words.
These things can hurt a victim by further invalidating or not believing their pain. These types of responses also send the victim the message that she isn’t important, only the narcissistic parent is.
Dear Reader, if this is your situation, I’m sure you’re hurting. I’ve heard similar comments & know first hand how painful they are. Know you aren’t alone! There are so many of us who understand! This may be a good time to reach out to other survivors of narcissistic abuse. There are online support forums (I have one on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FansOfCynthiaBaileyRug/ ). There are also so many informative websites & blogs available.
When faced with these conversations, it’s best for you to simply walk away. People who blindly defend a narcissist most likely never going to see the light about what she is really like. Defending yourself will only lead to frustration for you. Tell the person you don’t want to discuss the matter, & change the subject. If the person continues to force their opinion on you, walk away.
Know that you don’t have to tolerate any abuse from anyone. Invalidating & dismissing a victim’s pain is abuse! You have every right to protect yourself from it! You don’t need people who treat you this way in your life, & are well within your rights to cut them out of your life if you feel it’s the right thing to do.
As I’ve said many times, my heart goes out to those in the position of being unable or unwilling to go no contact with their narcissistic parents. You’re in a tough, tough place, & I understand since I’ve been there. I want to help you if I can, & that is what today’s post is about.
There are some small, easy ways you can set boundaries with your narcissistic parent while not eliminating them from your life entirely.
For starters, reduce the amount of time you spend with your narcissistic parent. Don’t visit or have your parent visit you as often. Stop taking their calls every time they call. Ask yourself if you feel up to dealing with your parent, & if not, don’t take that call or visit.
When you must visit or speak with your parent on the phone, set a time limit. Don’t allow your narcissistic parent to waste half your day when that is so hard on you! Set a limit, then say “I have to go” & go.
Also if you visit your narcissistic parent, have a way out. Plan something to do so you only have a limited time to spend with your parent. If you can’t think of something, say you just remembered something you have to take care of & go. It’s not a lie- you remembered you have to take care of yourself!
Remember to keep the conversation away from you. Your love life, in-laws, job, troubles & even your mental & physical health should be off the table for topics to discuss with your narcissistic parent. Giving any narcissist personal information is just asking for trouble such as criticism & unasked for, useless advice. Change the subject if your parent wants or demands to know something personal about you. If all else fails, ask your parent about something that matters to her. Chances are excellent she’ll drop the matter at the opportunity to talk about herself.
If you’re dependent even slightly on your narcissistic parent financially, find ways to put an end to it. Narcissists love controlling their adult children with money, so remove that tool if at all possible. If not, then at least find ways to reduce the amount.
If you have pets or kids, have strict boundaries in place. It is your job to protect them & that includes from abusive & narcissistic parents.
When it’s time to set boundaries with your parent, remain calm. Show no emotion, simply state the facts. Any signs you are upset will fuel your narcissistic parent’s behavior. Stay calm, state your boundary & the consequence of your parent not respecting the boundary, then enforce it if necessary.
If you’re friends on social media, unfollow your narcissistic parent. You will remain friends, but you won’t see her posts which can reduce stress.
If you must go somewhere with your narcissistic parent, drive separately. That way, you are free to leave at any time if need be. Also, cars are a great weapon for some narcissists. There is no escape- you have to put up with whatever they do when you’re in a car together. My mother loved having me trapped in her car, & used it to scream at me when I was a kid or belittle me as an adult.
Always remember the Gray Rock Method. Think about what gives your narcissistic parent narcissistic supply, & refuse to provide it. Basically, you need to be boring to her. Don’t admire her. Don’t praise her. Don’t get angry at her so she can portray herself as the victim. Don’t coddle her. Don’t share anything personal about yourself that she could use against you or as fuel to spread lies about you. Don’t empathize with her if someone has hurt her. Show no real interest in her problems. If she needs your assistance with something, do the bare minimum, don’t go above & beyond. Gray Rock can be hard at first because every tiny thing can provide narcissistic supply, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Lastly, pray & pray often. Ask God to help you cope with your narcissistic parent, to give you the right words to say, & to give you effective, creative ways to cope with her behavior. He will NOT disappoint you!
Psalm 101:5 in the Amplified translation of the Bible says, “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will silence;
The one who has a haughty look and a proud (arrogant) heart I will not tolerate.”
This verse has come to my attention quite a few times recently. It find it VERY interesting. Don’t you think that it describes some aspects of narcissistic behavior? Narcissists have NO trouble slandering others. They also have the haughty look & an arrogant heart. What is even more interesting to me than the description of these behaviors is that God has no tolerance for them.
Yet, narcissists’ evil minions, also known as flying monkeys, love to tell victims of narcissistic abuse that we are being cruel, unloving, & even ungodly if we set boundaries with the narcissist in our lives. They tell us invalidating & horrible things like, “You only get one set of parents!” “He won’t be around forever yanno!” “But that’s your MOTHER!!!” & more. If the flying monkey claims to be a Christian, they also like to throw in their version of Scripture to prove that your behavior is terrible, such as you aren’t honoring your parents or “God hates divorce” if your narcissist is your spouse.
Awful statements like these can make a victim feel ashamed for not tolerating the abuse or even feel enough guilt to resume the dysfunctional, abusive relationship as it was & abandon all attempts of self protection.
This should not be!!!
If you have been subjected to the inane ramblings of flying monkeys, you need to know some things.
First, the people saying these things are abusive. Invalidation is abusive. Encouraging someone to return to an abusive situation is also abusive. Attempting to force someone to do something is controlling & abusive. You have every right to protect yourself from these awful people.
Second, I’ve come to realize that many flying monkeys are simply covert narcissists. Narcissists only care about what is best for them, no one else. Why would you take the advice of someone like that?!
Third, you also have the right to protect yourself from any abusive person, which includes your narcissistic parent(s) or significant other. There is nothing holy, good or loving about tolerating abuse. Anyone who thinks there is has some seriously warped beliefs, & obviously they know nothing of God or His ways.
Fourth, the Bible says in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (NIV) One duty all Christians have is to become like God. While we can’t be just like God, of course, we can love as He loves, & treat people as He does. So, keeping this in mind, if God does not tolerate certain things, like narcissistic behavior, this means we shouldn’t tolerate it either.
And lastly, as I said, there is nothing holy, good or loving about tolerating abuse. Doing so encourages a person to behave poorly. It keeps them indulging in sinful behavior, hurting other people & even themselves. How can this be good for anyone?! It’s impossible!
On the opposite side of that coin, refusing to tolerate abuse is a good & loving thing to do. It sets boundaries that give consequences for a person’s bad behavior. If they wish to avoid those consequences, they will behave better. (While no one can force another person to change, boundaries at least create circumstances that can make a person want to change. ) Helping a person to be the best version of themselves that they can be is a loving thing to do.
Refusing to tolerate abusive treatment also removes the opportunity for the abusive person to sin, at least where you’re concerned, & that is a good thing. Tolerating abuse not only allows the abuser to sin but practically encourages it. After all, why should the abuser stop being abusive when they don’t have any reason to? And no, for narcissists, knowing they’re hurting someone else isn’t enough of a reason to stop abusing.
Dear Reader, the next time someone criticizes you for not tolerating abuse from the narcissists in your life, please remember what I’ve said. There is absolutely nothing good about tolerating abuse for you or the abuser. You have every right to protect yourself however you see fit, whether it’s by setting boundaries or even ending the relationship. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise! xoxo
Narcissistic parents often expect their children to care for them rather than the normal course of events where parents care for their children. They expect their children to meet their emotional needs, listen to their woes, make them happy when they are sad, fix their problems & more. This is called parentification, parentalizing, emotional incest or covert incest. (For simplicity sake, we’ll use parentification in this article.)
While parentification may not sound all that bad, its effect on children can be devastating. Children feel responsible for their parents, which burdens them with the false belief they are responsible for everyone in their circle as adults. That type of responsibility is incredibly stressful, no matter a person’s age, & as everyone knows, stress can cause a plethora of physical ailments.
It also robs children of their childhood. Parentified children aren’t allowed to hang out with their friends. They have their parents to take care of instead. Basically these children are living an adult life in their childhood.
Parentified children also are depressed. They often feel like failures for not being able to fix their parents’ problems, & narcissistic parents only make this feeling worse by blaming their children for not being able to accomplish the impossible.
These children often carry a great deal of anger inside, too, yet are unable to express it. To be angry at their parents feels so wrong since their parents have made it their job to protect these parents. Since expressing that anger is wrong, as far as the children are concerned, the anger gets stuffed inside & often manifests in very unhealthy ways. It can come out as self destructive ways (such as addictions) or other destructive ways (becoming abusive towards other people).
Parentified children have a right to be angry. They have been subjected to an incredibly cruel & insidious form of abuse by their own parents. And, to make matters worse, unknowing people compound their pain. They tell the children how lucky they are to have such a close relationship with their mother or father. Some people compound the guilt & responsibility on their child by saying things like, “I don’t know what your mom would do without you.” “You have to be strong for your dad- he needs you.” These kinds of things only make a child feel ashamed for having any complaints about the relationship, extra responsible for the parent they shouldn’t be responsible for in the first place & angry that they have been forced into this position.
If this describes you, you are NOT alone! Many people have been the victims of parentification, in particular children of narcissistic parents. I’ve been through it myself & sympathize with your pain. My parents came to me ever since i can remember with complaints about each other & even wanting me to fix their disagreements. I still have moments when I think of it that I get angry. And you know something? It’s ok! Being abused in any way, shape or form isn’t right. It’s ok to be angry about the unfairness of abuse & being forced to live with the painful effects, such as PTSD or C-PTSD.
The best way I’ve learned to cope is to go to God, & tell Him about what I feel. He truly understands & gives me a lot of comfort. I also have friends who have been through the same thing & understand. Sometimes one of the most helpful things for me is when they get angry over something I went through. That can be so validating! What my parents did wasn’t right, but, as a typical child of narcissists, I’ve always felt guilt for being angry with them. Although it’s diminished a great deal, it’s still there a little. Someone else getting angry about what my parents did helps me to understand that it’s ok to be angry about what they did & to realize just how wrong it was.
If you’re still in a relationship with your parent who indulges in parentification, you are not in a good place. Until such time as you decide to end this relationship, if you decide to take that step, you will need to learn ways to cope. Narcissists don’t accept boundaries like normal people, so you will need to get creative. Whatever you do, do NOT tell your parent, “It hurts me when you talk about/do that. Please don’t do it anymore.” Statements like that are like throwing gas on a narcissist fire. They will mock you for being oversensitive or do the behavior more often just to hurt you.
Instead, try changing the subject. Since narcissists love to talk about themselves, you can use that to your advantage. Ask your narcissistic parent something about herself. How is her job going? How did her last doctor visit go? Has she talked to her favorite cousin lately? It’s really not that hard to get a narcissist to talk about themselves. Why not use it in your favor?
Suddenly have to go. You just looked at the time & you have to go. You don’t owe any explanations- you just have to go.
Ask if your parent has talked to someone else who has been through something similar about this situation. After all, that person knows a lot more than you do & no doubt can help your parent more than you can! Let them think that you’re only suggesting this because it helps them in some way, not you.
Whatever your situation with parentification, I truly wish you the best. I pray you find effective ways to cope with your parent or are able to release any false guilt you may feel for no longer being in that situation.
Many people tell victims of narcissistic abuse things like “You need to be the bigger person & let it go.” “You just don’t understand- she had a bad childhood!” “You just need to forgive & forget.” “The Bible says to honor your parents. If you call your mother/father out on their behavior, God doesn’t approve of that!” Such statements are often said for the following reasons…
- The person has come from an abusive past, & refuses to face the pain. You talking about it reminds that person of his or her pain. That person wants to shut you down so you stop making that person uncomfortable.
- The person knows the narcissist, & like all flying monkeys, is protective of that narcissist. If the narcissist is related to this person, this is a very likely scenario. Families are extremely protective of narcissists. You can see a post I wrote on the topic here: How Families Protect Their Narcissist
Whatever the reasons these ludicrous statements are said, they not only hurt, they confuse & frustrate victims. As if it’s not bad enough we’ve been abused by the narcissist, now other people are being abusive as well by invalidating our pain as well as judging & criticizing us for speaking up to the abuser.
There is a verse in Isaiah that can shut down the argument that a victim shouldn’t speak up:
Isaiah 1:16-17 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, REBUKE THE OPPRESSOR; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.” (NKJV) (emphasis added)
Notice the part in all caps. “Rebuke the oppressor.” God said that! I just capitalized it for emphasis. Pretty cool, huh? According to God, we are not only allowed to confront someone about abusive behavior- we are supposed to do it. Do you really think God would’ve included that in the Bible if He didn’t want people to do it? Also notice- it doesn’t say, “Rebuke the oppressor, unless the oppressor is a parent.” There are no exceptions in this verse!
Now I realize with narcissists, many times it’s easier to let them do something than confront them. They love turning things around where the victim is the blame or telling others how mean & unreasonable a victim is for not tolerating their abuse. It’s frustrating but such behaviors mean that sometimes we shouldn’t confront them. But, even so, there are times that we know in our hearts we need to speak up to them no matter what they do. During those times, you can rest assured you are doing the right thing. It’s even in the Bible, in the book of Isaiah!
If anyone judges or criticizes you for speaking up to the narcissist in your life, although it can be painful, try to ignore it. If God Himself has said we are to rebuke an oppressor, who is any mere human to tell you it’s the wrong thing to do? You do what you know that God would have you to do, even if that includes confronting a narcissist, & you do it secure in the knowledge God approves of what you’re doing.